St. Andrew's Creation News

Creation News - Libya's Ashaafean Biosphere Reserve 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.  (Lao Tzu)

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.

Isaiah 40:3-4

Location and a Brief Description

The first step on the journey of preserving this little piece of creation:  Ashaafean (also spelled Al-Shaafin) is the first biosphere reserve in Libya, and its biogeographic mountainous region in the Mediterranean basin includes dry forests and grassy steppes in the north and the very arid southern regions of the Sahara Desert.

This reserve is home to a variety of rare and endangered species, such as medicinal and aromatic plants, and animal species included in the Red List of Threatened Species issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Two threatened species are the Houbara Bustard and the Egyptian Tortoise.


The Houbara Bustard

An average Houbara bustard is almost 3 feet long beak-to-tail and has a wingspan of almost 6 feet. The Houbara bustard is an omnivore. They love to feed on seeds, shoots, insects and small animals such as reptiles, but they seldom drink water, instead obtaining most of their need for water from their food.

The Houbara Bustards are under threat from sand extraction and tourist development.  They are threatened primarily by hunting as their meat is considered a delicacy. Traditionally, they are hunted using falcons. However, the use of firearms has increased the threat that hunters pose. The meat of these rare birds is considered by some to be an aphrodisiac and is sought after by princes and others to increase their sex drive. Other factors such as agricultural expansion, road construction and tourism development are causing widespread habitat loss. Control programs for insects such as locusts has also contributed to the smaller population of bustards due to poisoning.  The Ashaafean Reserve aims to protect the habitat of the Houbara bustards and increase their numbers. 

The Egyptian Tortoise (Klienmann's Tortoise)

This species is the second smallest tortoise (the smallest being South Africa’s speckled padloper). Being so small, the Egyptian tortoise is able to warm up very quickly in the sun. Its pale yellow color slows down how much heat can be absorbed.

Once found throughout Egypt and Libya, this tortoise is practically extinct in Egypt mostly as a result of habitat destruction. Although there are two populations in Libya, much of the coastline habitat has been lost. Today Egyptian tortoises continue to decline because of the illegal pet trade and hunting for folk medicine.
Recently, several initiatives were underway to protect the reserves, including a program to breed endangered tortoises in captivity. Because of this program, 36 endangered tortoises were released into the Ashaafean reserve to be monitored and protected.

Resources and Videos

Children of the Sun and the Wind

by Mohammed Ebnu
Translated by Tom Boll

We still live
on the brink of nothingness,
between the north and south of the seasons
We still sleep
on stone pillows,
like our fathers
We still follow the same clouds,
resting in the shadows of thorn trees
We still drink down our tea while swallowing fire
and we walk barefoot not to frighten the silence
And in the distance
at the edge of the mirage
we still watch, every evening
the sun fall into the sea
And the same woman greets us
while she posts lookout for the dusk
in the middle of the map
She greets us, then is lost
in the eyes of a child
smiling from the lap of eternity
And we still wait
for a new dawn
We still wait to begin again

Lepcis Magna

Originally a 7th-century BCE Phoenician city, it was greatly expanded under Roman Emperor Septimius Severus (193–211 CE). It fell to the Muslim invasion in c. 647 CE and was subsequently abandoned. Its ruins are within present-day KhomsLibya, 130 km (81 mi) east of Tripoli, and near the Biosphere Reserve. They are among the best-preserved Roman sites in the Mediterranean.

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